Color Crazy (Maxine)

Color and texture really affects me; simply walking down the street or through the woods often feels like listening to a symphony. I know it sounds kind of crazy but hey, I have a rich and satisfying inner life and it probably explains a lot about my quiet nature.

When choosing colors for interiors it's not hard to pick a color that's discordant with the rest of the scene inside. Color changes from the cool early light to the warm afternoon glow and all over again as we enter the world of artificial light. I typically look at many hundreds of colors before I approach clients with a select and controlled palette. Of the thousands of colors offered it's not unusual for me to further tweak a color to adjust its nuance. Sometimes it has a balancing effect - you don't really notice the change until it's pointed out. In our Rochester house there were 23 different colors in 2000 square feet and you'd be hard pressed to find them all.

I'd always assumed we'd paint at Vermont Street and was pretty excited that Benjamin Moore had launched a new no VOC line that was still loved by painters and available in every single wonderful color. I'd hoped it would wear as well as the matte and pearl sheens I'd become such a devout fan of - talk about paint you can scrub!.

A funny thing happened though as we became more and more committed to creating a greener home - we decided to not paint and instead use an earth plaster from American Clay. Walls that breathe, that maintain a constant humidity level by absorbing excesses and releasing it back when dry (important attributes in a home with such a tight building envelope). Walls that lessen the heating and cooling loads, walls that emit negative ions thereby cancelling out the positive ions created by electronics etc and best of all, wall that aren't a monochromatic mass because its a living finish with subtle texture and color variation. We initially thought earth plaster was out of our reach until the rather recent launch of Enjarre. I won't go into the application differences here but basically it can become its own primer and finish in one or become a primer for the other finishes offered like Loma, Porcelina and Marittimo. It's all good news that makes both processes more affordable. Suddenly we were able to use Enjarre as the lower level finish and able to use some of the other finishes for the more special spaces on the main floor. Downsides? It's a solid body product being applied in the not too distant future so decision time is now on color.

We picked up samples at Portland's Ecohaus, an amazing store every city should have because it's Home Depot(ette) for the conscientious. I knew my choices would be limited and I was right - 42 stock colors. 42 quickly distilled down to 16 and then to 12. Only one matched up to the colors I'd been imagining for months. You know, expectation and preconceived notions are dangerous things and can easily leave you clinging to the one speck of disappointment set adrift in an ocean of opportunity. I admit I needed some adjustment time. Part of me was afraid it would look and feel boring. Every room in our current rental home is the same off white and it's become painful to look at the walls after 10 months. I'm afraid of making an error in judgment and then being stuck with it - after all, I can't just paint over it. This is a side of sustainability I'd never considered on such a large scale before. Everything takes the long view, not just the structural and mechanical. I passionately believe in this but it's daunting to be accountable for such lasting decisions.

We met with Noah of Traditional Natural Plaster Co recently to talk about colors and I was comforted to know that they can do custom coloring though it does take some extra time. He's working on a custom blend for the common space and I'm excited about color again. We start in two weeks.